Arsenal vs Lens preview, team news, how to watch and predictions
Arsenal can advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League as group winners with a win over Lens at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.
After a five year hiatus from Europe’s elite competition, Arsenal have made light work of the group stages this season. They were given a reasonably favourable group after avoiding the so-called big guns, but Mikel Arteta’s men have still navigated some tricky tests. The Gunners have picked up nine points from their four Group B games so far. That’s included an impressive 4-0 win over PSV and a double over Sevilla. A 2-1 win in Spain was followed up by a 2-0 victory at the Emirates earlier this month. The only sour note came with a shock 2-1 defeat to Lens in France on Match week 2, so Arsenal will be out for revenge tomorrow night.
Those results have left the North Londoners sitting top of Group B – four points clear of PSV and Lens with Sevilla bottom with just two points. Arsenal need just a point to progress to the next phase of the competition but Arteta will want to do it in style and secure top spot with a win on home soil on Wednesday night.
Arsenal warmed up for the game with a hard fought 1-0 win over Brentford on Saturday evening. Kai Havertz was the hero as he came off the bench to score the late winner with a close range header from a lovely Bukayo Saka cross. Victory at the Gtech Community Stadium took Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League table after defending champions Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw by Liverpool earlier in the day.
The Gunners now sit one point ahead of City, and two ahead of Liverpool and Aston Villa – who jumped above Tottenham into the top four with a comeback win over Spurs on Sunday. While many feel Arteta’s men are yet to hit the heights of last season and aren’t playing their best free-flowing football yet, it’s encouraging to see them still sitting top of the table after 13 games.
However, Man City usually finish strongly, so Arsenal are going to need to improve as the season goes on if they want to stay the pace with their rivals in the title race. They went so close last season to winning their first league title since 2004, and Arteta is determined to go one better this campaign. It certainly feels like the Gunners will be City’s main rivals, although Liverpool look strong again after overhauling their midfield in the summer so we could see at least a three-horse race this season.
But Arsenal need to put the Premier League to the back of their minds as they prepare to take on Lens in the Champions League tomorrow. The French outfit head to the capital off the back of a 3-0 win away to Clermont Foot at the weekend. But they are in a close battle with PSV for second spot in Group B of the Champions League after losing 1-0 in Holland last time out, so they desperately need a positive result in North London.
How to watch
The game will be broadcast live on TNT Sport at 8pm on Wednesday 29th November. Subscribers can follow all the action as it happens on their TV, or stream on the app via mobile or tablet devices.
Match going fans can buy Arsenal vs Lens tickets via official club partners. However, Arsenal tickets are notoriously difficult to get hold of so supporters may be better off trying trusted reselling sites such as seatsnet.
Arsenal’s injury woes are slowly easing. Gabriel Jesus has been plagued by various issues this season and recently missed five matches with a hamstring injury. However, he made his return with Brazil during the international break and started for Arsenal during the 1-0 win at Brentford on Saturday. The South American is therefore in contention to feature against Lens.
Martin Odegaard also made his return to the Arsenal starting eleven at the weekend after missing the previous three games. The playmaker has been nursing a hip injury and also suffered concussion in training, but he’s fully fit and should start against Lens.
Ben White is pushing for a recall to the starting eleven after recovering from a recent knock. Fabio Vieira is available for selection after missing the Brentford game due to a domestic suspension.
However, Thomas Partey remains on the sidelines with a thigh injury that could keep him out until 2024. Emile Smith Rowe is also out with a knee injury while Jurrien Timber is facing a race against time to play again this season after undergoing surgery on an ACL injury that he suffered on the opening weekend.
As for Lens, they’ll be without Morgan Guilavogui after he was sent off against PSV. Deiver Machado is out with an adductor injury, while Jimmy Cabot and Wuilker Farinez are also unavailable. However, defender Kevin Danso is expected to be available after overcoming a foot problem.
Arteta is expected to name a strong line-up and David Raya should return in goal after missing the Brentford game. Aaron Ramsdale looked rusty and failed to take his opportunity to reclaim the No.1 shirt. White could start at right-back with Takehiro Tomiyasu making way while Havertz may have played his way into the starting eleven after coming off the bench to score the winner on Saturday.
Saka and Martinelli should keep their places in attack for Arsenal while Odegaard is likely to captain the side once again after coming through the Brentford game unscathed. It will be interesting to see if Jesus keeps his place or if Arteta wants to protect the Brazilian. But we expect him to start with Leandro Trossard making way.
Arsenal XI: Raya; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Rice, Havertz, Odegaard; Saka, Jesus, Martinelli
Lens XI: Samba; Medina, Danso, Gradit; Aguilar, Abdul Samed, Mendy, Frankowski; Thomasson, Sotoca; Wahi
Lens showed in the reverse fixture that they shouldn’t be taken too lightly and are capable of causing problems. However, Arsenal dominated much of the game in France and should be confident of gaining revenge on home soil.
The return of Jesus and Odegaard will give them added firepower so we expect the Gunners to be too strong for Lens. We’re backing the North Londoners to secure a routine win to book their place in the next phase. Arsenal 2-0 Lens
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